The Wurlitzer 2003 Reunion

The company was once referred to as The Mighty Wurlitzer! Perhaps this was because of the strength of its products, renowned training program, and educational efforts. For me, the secret behind the power of the Wurlitzer Company was its people!

Bob Popyk wrote an article in The Music Trades in 2003 alerting me to a reunion of those who worked for the Wurlitzer Company. Just having started the NAMM Oral History Program, and knowledge of the importance of The Mighty Wurlitzer, it’s products, training courses, and history, I was eager to meet, interview, and document the wonderful people who made up this amazing company. The first thought I had was how friendly these people must be if they are getting together on their own dime to see one another several years after the company closed. When I asked the organizers if I could attend they welcomed me with open arms! Attending the reunion in Chicago was a fantastic experience, that helped me shape my knowledge about many aspects of the industry, far beyond Wurlitzer’s own incredible history.

The Wurlitzer reunion took place on August 9, 2003, during which I was able to interview Scott Anderson, Dick Bennett, Richard Carlson, Gene Gray, Jack Martin, Gus Pearson, Harmon McMurtry, William Fuller, Dick Myrland, Gary Grimes and Bob Popyk along with Curtis Pearson who sold the brand in his music stores.

After the event, because of those I met at the reunion, I was able to later visit DeKalb, Illinois where the factory and headquarters were located. During those visits, I was able to interview Bruce Johnson, Bertil Larson, Anna Sipavich, and Millie Swanson. Over the years, I have included dozens of those who worked at the company including Glenn Derringer, Dan Kobida, Lowell Simpson, and Ron Sfarzo who helped organize the reunion!

So, why is it that all these years later I am still writing about this reunion? Because it mattered! Because for me, it made a difference in the way I understand and feel about our great industry. Because during those few days I met those who proudly had an impact on a company that supported many elements of our industry including training and educational programs. The reunion came at the ideal time when the Oral History program was just getting started and we were searching for what it would later become. As it turned out, by including these interviews from the Wurlitzer reunion we set the tempo that this collection has been and will continue to be about the people, no matter what their position within the industry is. If a person is as passionate about their job and they have made an impact, they should be included in this library collection. The Wurlitzer reunion was key for our collection for another reason, I realized I could and should interview people at every level and position within the industry because each can tell an important story. My goal of 100 interviews in 10 years was accelerated because of this fact and by the time we reached the ten-year mark, there were over 1,100 interviews in the collection!

Another important element that came from that reunion, friends that I have to this day!

Dan Del Fiorentino
NAMM Music Historian